Fat cells are storage tanks inside your body that hold reserve sources of energy. They mature like the rest of the body, but continue to increase in size–expanding or shrinking depending on the rate of your metabolism–and in number. Fat cells start out near “empty” when you are lean, but once you take in more energy than you can expend, they stretch out or fill up. So, when you lose weight and become leaner, the fat cells do not actually disappear; rather, they simply empty out or contract.
An energy deficit occurs in your body when you consume more energy than you take in. This will trigger a signal from hormones and enzymes to the fat cells to release fat reserves in storage. Fat stored in these cells is in the form of triacylglycerol, a molecule composed of glycerol and free fatty acids (FFAs). To break this down, it goes through hydrolysis so that FFAs are finally released through the bloodstream and taken to the muscles that need energy. While you have little control over the number of fatty cells you are born with, there are factors that will help you manage the increase in their population, which is the more important concern so you can maintain a healthy body. Here are four factors that increase fat cells:
1. Physiological Changes
An increase in the number of fat cells is called hyperplasia. It naturally happens at certain times and circumstances such as during late childhood and early puberty. From the five to six billion fat cells that you had when you were a baby, the number increases during childhood and puberty. During adulthood, you’ll have 25 to 30 billion of these cells (with a normal body composition).
2. Hormonal Changes
In general, women have more fat cells than men. During pregnancy, hormonal changes result in increased metabolism. Therefore, there is a tendency for these cells to increase in number.
If you are overweight, your fat cells are in the range of 75 billion. Obesity means three times the number, or between 250 and 300 billion.
4. Excessive Calories
The one factor that you have control over to keep those fat cells from increasing in number is your caloric intake. You get calories from what you eat. The more sugar, fats and carbohydrates in your diet, the higher your caloric intake, usually much more than you can burn efficiently. Even those supposedly “low-content” ingredients still add up to excess calories. Anything beyond what your body needs given your daily activities will be stored as fat, which becomes harder to lose if you have more than is necessary. More caloric intake simply means more energy stored. So, do not make it harder for yourself and watch what you eat.
If you have achieved your ideal weight, your goal should be to stay that way. Exercise is one regular activity that ensures you will burn energy, thereby tapping into your reserves stored in fat cells and emptying your tanks. With more muscles than fat, you can be certain of a healthier body.